Experts who spend some time studying Liberia’s social service provision history, and generally the country’s development programs, have pointed to two particular areas or sectors that annually attract fabulous supports from Government and from foreign partners but that their impacts in real time are often poor, feeble and meager. Those include the Agriculture and Health sectors. Why was so in 17 decades is still under scrutiny, even though rough findings show that the problem has been the lack of innovation and the political will on the part of those who have led the country. Since 2018, the political will, as well as innovation regime, brought to the table by President Weah and his Government has proven enormous, particularly for the health sector. And this is shown concretely in the work and results that stare in the faces of even the blind. The Analyst leafs through the context of the health challenges of the past and what is now being done. Excerpts.
Where is the history, for instance, that a Liberian government or international organizations working in this country ever built a special hospital for men in arms?
The administration of Samuel K. Doe did a lot to change the “Noko” status of the Liberian army and other paramilitary groups.
Soldiers and law enforcement officers were called “Noko”, a disparaging label accentuating the illiterate, low class status of soldiers and the police.
During the Settler Rule, they were treated by Government and the general public as mere wild dogs meant only for a catch and not respected as a vital component of the society. This was reflected in the structures built in barracks to live in. It was also shown in the uniforms they wore, in appalling size and irregularity of their pay, amongst other things.
Even with all that the Samuel Doe administration did to support soldiers, the regime didn’t build a hospital of their own. So, as soldiers or their families roamed private and public hospitals and health centers, they were treated with contempt. In times of emergency, when a soldier was injured in the course of the performance of his duties, he did not get special treatment and special attention.
This was too much of ingratitude to men and women who put their lives on the line for the rest of the populace. It is unmodern. Liberia was far behind many other countries on this. But George Manneh Weah’s administration changed the sad story with the building of the gigantic modern hospital for men in arms, their dependents and the larger public.
That is the depth at which the 24th Liberian President holds dearly the responsibility to improve the health sector of the nation.
There also is the New Redemption Hospital which unarguably is the largest medical facility in Liberia when completed.
The New Redemption Hospital is a state-of-the-art maternal health (obstetrics and gynecology) and child health (pediatrics).
There some folks who are thinking about how the hospital will measure up to its modern stature as designed? Already, the Government of Liberia has sent out 18 medical doctors to specialize in Urology, Anesthesiology, Pediatric Surgery, Psychiatry, ENT Surgery, orthopedic surgery, infectious disease control and prevention etc. And, of course, development partners have committed to train health workers, nurses and midwives, finance selected undergraduate and post-graduate faculties, and fully equip the facility.
Before the first year of his administration ended, President Weah ordered and achieved significant upgrading of the JFK Medical Center, coupled with his successful appeal for assistance from partners.
The JFK upgrade included the renovation and furnishing of Diagnostic Imaging Suite with a CT Scan, the renovation of 8 operating theaters of 4th Floor West Wing Surgical Ward, renovation and equipping of the Pathology Laboratory. In also included the renovation and expansion of the Truama and Intensive Care Unit.
For the first time in Liberia, a Dialysis Center is constructed with the help of development partners.
The Liberian and Japanese government signed a US$2.7 million grant agreement to help provide medical equipment for major health facilities across the country.
The Weah-led government raised the minimum salaries of government doctors from US$1200 to US$ 2000
The heroic, successful handling of the Coronavirus pandemic in Liberia is an adequate testament of the Weah Government’s commitment to the Liberian health sector largely neglected in the past.
Not only has the president led by example, religiously demonstrating adherence to all health protocols; he has also made the anti-COVID 19 fight a matter of national priority and urgency.
The President and his administration have demonstrated good leadership never seen in the country’s history in fighting pandemic. He has been personally involved in meetings and other endeavors intended to curb the spread of COVID-19, and exercising extreme political will in letting every and all resources required to achieve the common objective.
Today, Liberia is internationally credited and mimicked as a success story in the fight against Coronavirus.